UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Palestinians are hoping that a vote Tuesday in the U.N. General Assembly on a nonbinding resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire will demonstrate widespread global support for ending the Israel-Hamas war, now in its third month.
After the United States vetoed a resolution in the Security Council on Friday demanding a humanitarian cease-fire, Arab and Islamic nations called for an emergency session of the 193-member General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon to vote on a resolution making the same demand.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding. But as U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Monday, the assembly’s messages “are also very important” and reflect world opinion.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the defeated resolution in the Security Council was cosponsored by 103 countries, and he is hoping for more cosponsors and a high vote for the General Assembly resolution on Tuesday.
In the first U.N. response to the Gaza war, the General Assembly on Oct. 27 called for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities. The vote was 120-14 with 45 abstentions.
After four failures, the Security Council on Nov. 15 adopted its first resolution after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in Gaza to address the escalating crisis for Palestinian civilians during Israel’s aerial and ground attacks.
That vote in the 15-member council was 12-0 with the United States, United Kingdom and Russia abstaining. The U.S. and U.K. said they abstained because the resolution did not condemn Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel in which about 1,200 people were killed and 240 abducted, and Russia because of its failure to demand a humanitarian cease-fire, which Israel and the United States oppose.
As the death toll in Gaza has mounted during Israel’s campaign to obliterate Hamas, calls for a cease-fire have escalated, and on Friday the U.S. was isolated in its support for Israel in the Security Council, where the vote was 13-1 with the United Kingdom abstaining.
The Security Council meeting and vote last Friday were a response to a letter from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who invoked Article 99 of the U.N. Charter, which enables a U.N. chief to raise threats he sees to international peace and security. He warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza and urged the council to demand a humanitarian cease-fire.
Guterres said he raised Article 99 — which hadn’t been used at the U.N. since 1971 — because “there is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza.” The U.N. anticipates this would result in “a complete breakdown of public order and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” he warned.
Gaza is at “a breaking point” and desperate people are at serious risk of starvation, Guterres said, stressing that Hamas’ brutality against Israelis on Oct. 7 “can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
Like the Security Council resolution, the draft General Assembly resolution makes no mention of Hamas or the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.
It expresses “grave concern over the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population” and says Palestinian and Israeli people must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law.
In addition to an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, the draft demands that all parties comply with international humanitarian law, “notably with regard to the protection of civilians,” and calls for “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access.”
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